Sports Ethics

Nike, Colin Kaepernick – Power, Sneakers, and Pawns

By October 27, 2019 No Comments

We have come to live in an age of political correctness, deep racial and political divisions and right – or wrong – the power of celebrity.  This is true when you think of Nike, Colin Kaepernick and sneakers.

Colin KaepernickAs a testament to the sometimes craziness of these times, let me start by saying the price of the Nike Air Max 1 sneaker, originally intended to sell for $120.00, is presently considered a collector’s item and is currently selling at $2,501.00. Incredibly, 66 pairs have already been surreptitiously sold on a sneaker reselling site (yes, there is such a thing).

The sneaker does absolutely nothing special, and doesn’t even look all that special save for one decoration: a 13-star Betsy Ross flag is stitched on the heel.

Back to 2016

It was the 2016-2017 season when San Francisco 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling for the national anthem. He started in the preseason and ignited a firestorm.

Colin Kaepernick began to create a major divide between the NFL players, team owners, and fan base. His kneeling was way too much for millions of Americans.

I am not an evaluator of football talent. From what I understand, he was a decent quarterback who lasted a total of seven seasons with a 60 percent pass completion record. His production started to fall off and the 49ers ostensibly let him go for lack of production.

Many felt he was relegated to the bench not because of his playing ability but because of his political stance. This difference of opinion resulted in a national blow-up. No other team would take a chance on him and while all of the team owners denied it, he was a man without a job, a national controversy and as reviled as much as he was loved.

In 2018, the Nike Corporation, never an organization to shy away from taking a position, hired Colin Kaepernick to be a national spokesperson. To the dismay of many “patriots,” Nike sales shot up in support of the unemployed QB, and while their sales have slowed a bit since then, they still remain a healthy company.

In June 2019, Nike announced it was going to introduce to produce a shoe featuring the Nike Air Max 1 sneaker with the Betsy Ross American flag embroidered on the heel. The multi-billion-dollar company has just canceled those plans. Why? Because Colin Kaepernick told Nike executives that the symbol is offensive.

Colin Kaepernick – A Lot of Power for a Position

Bending to Colin Kaepernick’s will, Nike’s marketing backbone caved because the ex-football player told them so. Why Betsy Ross’ flag was offensive to him was not elucidated, only that he associated it with racism.

The choice to withdraw the sneaker from the market led to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey. Nike was planning a 500-employee manufacturing facility in the Phoenix area. As such, Arizona was about to give the multi-billion-dollar company waived construction fees and tax breaks.

The governor, so offended by Nike bowing to Kaepernick made a countermove.

Said Ducey, “It is a shameful retreat for the company. American businesses should be proud of our country’s history, not abandoning it. Nike has made its decision, and now we’re making ours. I’ve ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here.”

The power play between Colin Kaepernick, Nike, and Arizona have at least resulted in 500 potential employees not getting jobs. The hourly and low wage workers are pawns. Nike remains a multi-billion-dollar company with an alienated set of customers as well as a loyal set of customers, and Colin Kaepernick is still a multi-millionaire.

A Mess of Consequences

Like him or not, Colin Kaepernick is the end result of choices as well as the purveyor of consequences. He chose to kneel and most probably received the wrath of the NFL and its ownership. While he had a legitimate point of view and the right to express it, it resulted in his never throwing an NFL pass again.

Nike chose to bring on Kaepernick as a spokesperson. It was their right. They thought it would be an edgy and gutsy move, and for a while sales spiked. However, the ex-football player is now exerting his power of public opinion in preventing a product’s launch. Within the Nike inner circle, it is impossible to not wonder what executives think of Kaepernick’s latest influence on the corporation. More importantly, they might wonder, where will all of these choices lead?

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